WE’RE back on the buses! Some passengers were so relieved that, after five weeks, the strike had come to an end yesterday, they said it was like Christmas Day!

And, for the next week, travel on Go North East will be free, as bus bosses try to entice people back onto their services. More good news…

Yet for many communities, it has been a dispiriting five weeks. Businesses have told how, without the regular footfall from bus passengers, their trading has been seriously hit, while students looking to get to college on a daily basis and people with jobs that demand their attendance have told how financially difficult it has been for them to dial up taxis every day. Other would-be passengers have told how psychologically draining it has been for them to be cooped up in their homes, unable to follow their usual routines and get out and meet people – we’ve heard stories of publicans driving around in their own cars to collect their housebound regulars.

All of this paralysis from one bus strike.

Buses are the Cinderella service of public transport. Whereas there are never-ending debates about HS2 and Northern Powerhouse rail, and there is a vast pot of money for rail improvements – £100m, which is welcome, for Darlington Bank Top station alone – buses tend to be forgotten by those in authority with routes being constantly whittled away.

It is all well and good the Government capping the fares at £2, but it is not much good if your local bus service was removed years ago.

There is some bad feeling towards both sides in this strike which has left the more vulnerable members of society without transport for so long, but the profound and widespread impact of the complete cessation of services is a reminder of buses’ importance and that when Durham becomes part of a mayoralty, it can begin to improve the standards.